The Murder of Eric Garner and the Failure of Justice

As others have noted, while there may have been some reason not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to have refrained from indicting Daniel Pantaleo for the murder–yes, the murder–of Eric Garner. And why was Garner murdered? For selling “loose” or untaxed cigarettes. “Appalling” does not even begin to describe this situation.

There was even a video of the entire situation. As Sean Davis notes, the video shows that Garner “wasn’t a mortal threat to anyone. He carried no weapons. He did not shove or attack any police officers in such a way to be considered an imminent threat to their health and safety.” More:

The grand jury’s decision not to bring any charges against the officer who killed Garner is inexplicable. It defies reason. It makes no sense. Unlike the Michael Brown case, we don’t have to rely on shaky and unreliable testimony from so-called eyewitnesses. We don’t need to review bullet trajectories or forensics. All we have to do is watch the video and believe our own eyes.

[. . . ]

Why, it’s almost as if the grand jury system is just a convenient means for prosecutors to get the outcome they want wrapped in a veneer of due process. Want to indict a ham sandwich? Consider it indicted. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted for vetoing a spending bill, but a New York prosecutor can’t indict an officer who killed another man in an incident that was completely captured on video? Come on.

John Edwards was right: there are Two Americas. There’s an America where people who kill for no legitimate reason are held to account, and there’s an America where homicide isn’t really a big deal as long as you play for the right team.

Unfortunately Eric Garner was a victim in the second America, where some homicides are apparently less equal than others.

And as though all of this were not infuriating enough, Davis goes on to point out that “the same DA’s office tasked with handling his homicide case just happened to get a grand jury indictment against the man who filmed Garner’s homicide.” Yes, you read that right. It isn’t an indictable offense to murder Eric Garner, but if you film his murder, well, you better get yourself a lawyer!

This entire outcome is a disgusting one. In its aftermath, anyone and everyone who believes that the police are afforded special protections from the law that are not given to the rest of us are entirely justified in that belief. And that is a shame and a tragedy. We are supposed to trust the police, and to believe that we can rely on them. Instead, we have to fear the police. All of us do–especially if the color of your skin is anything other than white.